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KTM 950 SM



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This is excerpts from the article where I compared the 950 SM to the 990 Superduke (pictures of Superduke are further down on the page):

”This is really a motorbike with a capital ’M’ for me” I think to myself inside my helmet after riding several miles on the KTM 950 Supermoto. There are loads of dream bikes out there and I have ridden most of them. But even so, the 950 SM rumbles the loudest of my built-in Richter scale. However, 990 Superduke is speedier on the motorway and the engine sings in my head until it takes over. But which shall I choose?


words: Tor Sagen/pics: Claire McHugh


 990 Superduke was first born as a creative concept drawing in 2003. In September 2003 KTM showed the first pictures of the concept model. The year after it was decided that it should be produced exactly as it was. By early 2005 the bike was on sale! The path from concept to finished product is a short one and the Austrians like to keep their style youthful. The model was launched as the KTM factory’s first sporty road bike with more than one cylinder. KTM has been the leading brand in Supermoto production and competition for many years and it was only natural that KTM should establish its own niche with the 950SM. The motor and chassis are borrowed from the Adventure 950. But what on earth should you use a 100hp V-twin in a supermoto for?? If you think, as I do, that you have the answer, it is exactly the same that you would use the 990Superduke for (although the 950SM may be more touring-friendly).

 Both models are distinctive in their youthful, crazy KTM image- orange and proud of it. Even so, it is the 950 Supermoto that is most special in that it has created its very own class. Just as the Ducati Monster was the start of the street fighter revolution that has brought us bikes such as the 990 Superduke, the 950SM has started the ’king-motard’, ’Hypermotard’ or ’super-supermoto’ wave. (Two of these expressions were coined by yours truly, the other comes from Ducati.) Ducati is, for now, the only manufacturer following KTMs example.  However, we expect more to follow next year.

If you thought that a 650cc supermoto was good fun, then the 950SM is all that and more. Yes please, supersize me. The ultra-long wheel travel gives precision on poor road surfaces so that you can just concentrate on enjoying the riding. The 950 SM takes to city centre kerbs just as well as country lanes where the cow muck is strewn after the muck spreader. The 950 motor from the Adventure gives extra acceleration and top speed. This supermotard reaches 200km/hr effortlessly where a one-cylinder bike would struggle around 160. A large 100hp V-twin possibly manages long trips more comfortably and accordingly KTM has top box and tank bag available as accessories to the 950SM. In addition the luggage rack on the back of the 950SM has a great grab rail for the pillion. It is here that the 950SM begins to sail past the 990Superduke. There is no place to attach a rack for a top box to the 990 Superduke and there are no grab handles for your pillion. But maybe you aren’t particularly bothered about practicalities on a bike like this. The fact of the matter is that the 950SM does widen your possibilities for touring whilst at the same time being just as entertaining to ride. One thing the 950SM can’t beat is the cutting edge 118bhp 999cc engine sitting in the Superduke. On the motorway, the Superduke has masses of speed in reserve and striking acceleration. The Superduke’s fuel-injection is finely-tuned and it is not difficult to distinguish between these two bikes when the fuelling is concerned. The 950SM has two Keihin 43mm carburettors and especially when coming off the throttle you can spot the difference. You get a good old-fashioned burbling from the exhaust pipes and the transition when coming off the gas from full throttle is not exactly subtle.  It is again a sign of how good the fuel injection is from the Keihin on the Superduke. One problem with the Superduke is that the fuel indicator can’t measure the last litre of the 15l tank, giving a fuel capacity of just 14l essentially. This means that it doesn;t take long for the fuel warning light to come on. Another slightly irritating thing is that the fuel indicator stays on for a while after you fill up as well. The 950SM on the other hand has a slightly bigger 17.5l fuel tank. In exchange for this, it weighs a little more, uses double carburettors and has a more upright sitting position that gives more wind resistance. With our fuel consumption estimates we clocked up about 200km with the 990 (0.069l/km) and 240km on the 950 (0.071l/km). 990 Superduke deserves a larger petrol tank.

Both the models have 48mm forks from WP but totally different wheel travel. 990 Superduke is in its element on the tarmac roads whilst the 950 SM lends itself to gravel roads as well with the help of a little more knobbly tyre (Pirelli Scorpion) and the longer wheel travel. 990 Superduke has a more sporty geometry, physically smaller and 7 kilos lighter. The seat height is large on both bikes and there is only 10mm difference between the two. In comparison with the Ducati Monster and Aprilia Tuono the  Superduke seat is very high (a lofty 855mm). In spite of this, you don’t get that top-heavy unstable feeling when leaning that you can get when the centre of gravity of a bike is high. Both have a long aluminium swing-arm that ensures that all the horsepower is firmly planted on the tarmac without the front wheel necessarily having to wheelie up. If the need arises, both bikes are ready for most things that you might need from a bike. The brake systems are splendid on both the bikes and well suited to the different riding styles. On the 950 SM you’re expected to lock the back wheel and steer long into the turn and thereafter accelerate hard out.  Therefore the 950SM has a strong 2-pot rear brake whilst the Superduke has a weaker 1-pot calliper. KTM has really splashed out on Brembo goodies on the front end of the 950 SM such that it is difficult to judge the more subtle braking but great when the full force is required.  The 990’s 4-pot calliper has sensitivity and strength in abundance. Even if the radial brakes on the 950SM are bloody good they aren’t as sensitive and are therefore difficult to temper.  Especially when you only need a slight adjustment.  When it comes to pure strength, the 950SM has literally more than enough.  The 990 also has what it needs but with added sensitivity and less raw strength.  In short, they both get a big plus for the brakes! You'll get the rest of the test and conclusion by doing a little research on the net...


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